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MLB Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays 2012 Expectations Revisited: Colby Rasmus

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the 2012 MLB season, I put together a series of performance “forecasts” for the projected starters for the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, with the long season well behind the team, here’s a look back at how the players did compared to my projections – which is another way of saying let’s see how much I messed them up. Today, we’ll look at Colby Rasmus‘ 2012 season.

There’s something to be said about upside and expectations; Colby Rasmus knows it well, as the former top prospect has been treading a fine line between upside and disappointment since his breakout season in 2010.

It hasn’t been a comfortable thing for the 26-year old, whose acquisition from the St. Louis Cardinals was considered nothing short of a major coup by Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. The spare pieces went on to help the Cards win the World Series then, and a full season later, the buzz over the Blue Jays’ then-coup has simmered down to cautious optimism.

There’s a lot that could be said about Rasmus’ talent, and what he’s capable of doing. That said, all of those things can only do so much to mask the numbers – and the numbers say that he’s been an unequivocal disappointment since donning a Blue Jays uniform.

Whether it’s the lackluster .689 OPS over the full season, or the 1.4 fWAR that ranks him 2nd to last among qualifying major league center fielders, Rasmus’ 2012 season has been largely characterized by frustration, with periods of brilliance scattered in between.

Make no mistake: Colby Rasmus’ talents are considerable, and one needs to look no further for a demonstration of this than the three-plus weeks in June of ’12 where Rasmus was one of the very best among his peers. Even though he recorded only three hits over the final five games of the month, Rasmus managed to put together a .291/.331/.547 triple slash over the month, hitting eight homers in the span of 124 PA. In fact, with a .821 OPS, 17 homers, and a more-than-manageable 0.43 BB/K through the first half of the season, Rasmus looked to be well on his way to crafting a whole different narrative to his season, despite a slow start.

Then the second half happened, and his production all but disappeared.

Rasmus played through parts of the second half with a nagging groin injury, but the numbers had started going south well before that. And go south it did, with a brutal .191/.284/.372 in July that only signaled the worst to come. His power (.234 ISO in 1st half) all but disappeared. Ditto his plate discipline, as pitchers in the league made adjustments to the changes he’d made, and Rasmus found himself striking out nearly 30 percent of the time (19.7 percent in 1st half). His BB/K was cut by nearly half to a dismal .22.

Nothing was going right for Rasmus, regardless of what he did.

And so, a .515 OPS in the 2nd half dampened most of the buzz on his 17 first-half homers, and Rasmus settled for another disappointing year as the team’s supposed center-fielder of the future.

That’s a future that won’t be so clear if Rasmus can’t find sustained success for a Blue Jays club with a mandate to contend for the division crown in ’13. Anthony Gose, whom Anthopoulos loves (enough not to part with him, even for R.A. Dickey) is closer than ever, and Rasmus’ below replacement level in the second half won’t be given a very long leash.

In my preseason forecast, I said that “I would give Rasmus a full mulligan on his ineffectual .517 OPS with the Blue Jays in 2011 and call it an adjustment period marred by injury”, citing the SSS clause for his 140 PA sample in Toronto in ’11.

My expectations were largely positive. They were also largely wrong:

My 2012 forecast590 PA, .260/.325/.445, 19 HR, 14 SB
Rasmus in ’12: 625 PA, .223/.289/.400, 23 HR, 4 SB

A year ago, I thought that “there were a number of things that didn’t seem quite right with Rasmus in 2011, but they seem like aberrations to the norm, rather than a continuous trend.” After a full Jeykll-and-Hyde season in ’12, it’ll be that much more difficult to consider Rasmus’ issues to be outliers going forward.